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W


e are driving through green, thick canopies of


tropical


forest and alongside powerful, rushing rivers. The climate is


and the


scenery is beautiful here in the Haut-Uele District of the Democratic Republic of Congo, far up north on the border with South Sudan. But as we barrel down the pot-holed roads towards the town of Dungu I know that this splendid landscape belies the thousands upon thousands of terrible stories of savage brutality and darkness that have scarred the people of this remote region.


Only a few years ago the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) occupied this whole area, spreading fear, committing gross acts of violence, killing indiscriminately, forcibly recruiting children to fight, kidnapping and raping women. Some women would be taken deep into the heart of the forest for many years, sometimes escaping, often with babies conceived by their abusers.


I am here with UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency, to meet one of the many women forced to flee her home when conflict engulfed her district. She, like so many, is a survivor, she also happens to be a business woman, a community leader, a carer, a baker, a seamstress, she runs a school, a clinic, a farm and an orphanage, and she is a nun. Oh, and did I mention in 2013 she was celebrated as an international humanitarian when she was presented with the Nansen Refugee Award by UNHCR in recognition of her extraordinary work on behalf of the forcibly displaced.


Her name is Sister Angelique Namaika. Or “Mother” as she is known by many people in the area.


As we pull up to the Centre for Reintegration in Dungu, established by Sister Angelique, joyous music rises up around us. Dancing, ululating, singing.


It is


glorious. Today is the official opening of the bakery that Sister Angelique has built on the compound with the funds gifted to her as a Nansen Laureate, and it seems that people have come from far and wide to help celebrate.


The bakery will employ some of the many women that Sister Angelique is helping through the Centre; women who tell us about being kidnapped by the LRA, being horrifically and repeatedly violated, somehow finding their way home to their villages, but being rejected by their families and neighbours for bearing the children


© UNHCR/ Jordi Matas


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